Venezuelan carrier Avensa got into financial difficulties and stopped flying in 2002.

Today we are going to look at what became of Caracas-based Venezuelan airline Avensa. Founded by local businessman Andres Boulton Pietri and Pan American World Airways in May 1943 as a cargo airline Avensa began life serving the oil-rich territory of Carteru with Ford Trimotors and Stinson Reliants. A year later, in 1944, Avensa expanded and offered passenger flights with Lockheed 10A twins.

Avensa DC-9

Following the end of World War Two, Avensa added Douglas DC-3s to its fleet and used the aircraft extensively before replacing them in 1955 with Convair 340 twins. The new aircraft were then used to connect the Venezuelan capital with Miami. By 1960 Avensa not only had a comprehensive domestic network but also flew internationally to Aruba, Jamaica, Miami, and New Orleans.


Avensa added Douglas DC-9s to its fleet

The early 1960s also saw Avensa merge with LAV (Aeropostal) to form a new national carrier called “Viasa.” In 1964 Avensa purchased its first jet, a French-built Sud Caravelle but relied primarily on turboprops for most of its flights. Douglas DC-9s were added to the fleet to give the airline a competitive edge before Pan Am sold its 30% stake in the airline to the Venezuelan government in 1976.

Financial problems saw a fleet reduction

Now 100% state-owned, Avensa introduced Boeing 727s and later Boeing 737s to its fleet as it looked to modernize. The airline later added two Boeing 757s but had to offload them in the 1990s after facing financial problems. What was left were the following aircraft:

  • 11 x Boeing 727s
  • 5 x Douglas DC-9s
  • 2 x Boeing 737s

Following the collapse of Viasa in 1997, Avensa took over many of its international routes, including some long-haul routes to Europe. Avensa used widebody McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft for flights between South America and Europe. From Caracas Airport |(OMZ), Avensa flew to the following European destinations:

  • Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS) in Lisbon, Portugal
  • London Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the United Kingdom
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France
  • Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO) in Rome, Italy
  • Tenerife South Airport (TFS) in Spain’s Canary Islands

Avensa went out of business in 2002

Avensa DC-10

As its financial woes continued, Avensa only served three domestic destinations as it tried to rebuild itself. Political instability and the financial banking crisis of 1994 saw the Venezuelan government bail out the country’s banks to the tune of $6 billion. This figure equated to 75% of the country’s national budget. To stem the flight of money from the country to overseas banks, Venezuela introduced currency controls which hurt Avensa badly. Unable to continue due to money issues, Avensa eventually folded in 2002.

Venezuela’s situation never improved despite the country having vast amounts of natural resources. Today millions of people have fled Venezuela due to hyperinflation and a socialist government. The situation today remains dire and will go down as being the worst economic crisis to affect a country since the Great Depression between 1929 and 1939.

Despite Avensa folding 20 years ago, if you visit airports in Venezuela today, you will see signs for Avensa plastered on check-in desks and luggage carts. Even though the airline is a distant memory, the country’s problems continue to worsen.


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